John Street Roundhouse
John Street Roundhouse from the top of the Toronto Dominion Centre, 2009. Creative Commons
Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
The John Street Roundhouse in Toronto, built between 1929 and 1931 by Canadian Paciﬁc, for over 30 years serviced steam locomotives. It was designed by CP’s Chief Engineer J.M.R. Fairbairn and built by Anglin-Norcross Ltd. of Montreal. Following the retirement of steam locomotives in 1960, the roundhouse continued to service CP and Via Rail diesel-electric locomotives until 1986. It had sat unused for many years, but has been brought back to life through an innovative commercial and interpretive re-purposing. Situated close to the CN Tower, this building has created a home for the Steam Whistle Brewing Co. (1990), an outlet for Leon’s Furniture (2009), and headquarters for the Toronto Railway Historical Association.
Originally the roundhouse had stalls for 32 locomotives. The same number of bay doors made up the inner rounded facade of the building, facing the turntable. The locomotives were moved by a turntable manufactured by the Canadian Bridge Company and it was the largest used by Canadian Paciﬁc. It has once again beenmade operational. The exterior and interior of the building are composed primarily of brick and glazing. Natural light ﬂoods the interior space.
The roundhouse was once part of a 16 acre property that contained 43 structures and several miles of track. Daily, over 40 CP passenger trains were hauled by locomotives serviced at the John Street Roundhouse for such destinations as Montreal, Vancouver, Detroit, Chicago and New York City. The facility employed as many as 150 staff. It was donated by Canadian Paciﬁc to the City of Toronto and is the only remaining roundhouse in downtown Toronto.
The facility was designated a National Historic Site in 1990. It is considered to be the best surviving example of a roundhouse in Canada. Its heritage value lies in its location on Toronto’s formerly vast rail yards and in the design and physical fabric which illustrate its former role in the rail industry.